Man detained for vandalizing memorial to teen murdered at 2015 Jerusalem Pride
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Man detained for vandalizing memorial to teen murdered at 2015 Jerusalem Pride

Suspect held for discarding flowers laid at spot where Shira Banki was stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox extremist; activist calls vandalism an example of ‘ugly and cowardly hatred’

Man seen vandalizing a memorial to Shira Banki, the 16-year-old stabbed to death at the 2016 Jerusalem Pride Parade (Screen grab via Channel 13 news)
Man seen vandalizing a memorial to Shira Banki, the 16-year-old stabbed to death at the 2016 Jerusalem Pride Parade (Screen grab via Channel 13 news)

A man was detained after he was videoed throwing away the flowers placed at a memorial to a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death at the 2015 Jerusalem Pride parade, Channel 13 news reported Friday.

The bouquets had been placed in memory of Shira Banki by her parents and other participants in Thursday’s annual parade in the city, which saw some 10,000-15,000 participants secured by over 2,000 police officers.

A passerby videoed the man discarding the flowers. The suspect was later detained and taken for questioning.

Eran Globus of the Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT rights group in the city, said the attack on the memorial was an act of “ugly and cowardly hatred.”

Banki, 16, was stabbed to death during the 2015 parade by Yishai Schlissel, a Jewish ultra-Orthodox extremist. Six other people were wounded in the attack.

Schlissel was sentenced to life in prison for the attack, which came just weeks after he finished a sentence for a previous stabbing attack at the Jerusalem parade in 2005, which left three wounded.

Along the route on Thursday, marchers stopped to lay flowers at the spot on Keren Hayesod Street where Banki was stabbed to death.

Banki’s father Uri Banki was at the march and told reporters he was there to show support for the event’s message.

“We are marching today in memory of Shira and also to support tolerance in Israel,” Uri Banki said. “Tolerance is something that is easy for us to demand from others and much harder to sustain ourselves.”

People take part in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Thursday’s parade saw a wave of detentions — police said 49 people were arrested, including one who was found to be carrying a knife and refused to identify himself. The detainees were suspected of “intending to disturb the event and parade,” a police statement said. (All were released by Friday morning.)

The annual event is a highlight for the city’s vibrant LGBT community, which is often overshadowed by Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly persona and beset by religious and political tensions ever-present in the capital.

The 2.5-kilometer (1.5 mile) route, from the city’s Liberty Bell Park to Independence Park, began at 5:30 p.m, signaling the start of pride month events in Israel. Police said some 10,000-15,000 people took part, well below the 30,000 originally expected at the march.

People take part in the 18th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The number was smaller than in years past. In 2016, some 25,000 took part, many in solidarity with the community following the deadly stabbing attack, which left Banki dead. Last year, at least 15,000 marched in the parade, according to authorities.

Police had prepared a list of dozens of potential troublemakers who were placed under supervision from the morning, Channel 12 reported.

On Wednesday, police arrested a right-wing activist, Moshiko Ben Zikri, who they said disguised himself as a member of the LGBT community for two consecutive years to enter the parade, climb on a podium and protest against the event.

The preemptive action against anti-LGBT activists, as well as an announcement that in recent months police recruited several transgender trainees, marks a shift for law enforcement, who have been widely faulted for failing to adequately protect previous marches and for still not solving a mass shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center a decade ago.

Benzi Gopstein (with microphone), head of the anti-miscegenation group Lehava, leads a demonstration against the Jerusalem Gay Pride parade on June 6, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A demonstration against the march was held nearby by the right-wing extremist Lehav organization. Police outnumbered the 150 or so protesters three to one, according to Channel 12, and metal barriers prevented them from getting close to the pride event.

Lehava leader Bentzi Gopstein said: “The aim of the [pride] march is destroy the Jewish family values and turn Jerusalem and the whole of Israel into Sodom. We will demonstrate so that everyone knows that there is no agreement to abomination and harm to the Jewish identity of the state.”

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